Report from the road: there is more good than bad, don’t forget

Categories Featured, Personal, Travel

This past week, Guillaume and I decided to take a little mid-week break and headed to the Cederberg for some flower-spotting and a quick two-day digital detox.

We stayed at Enjo Nature Farm in the Biedouw Valley and spent a full day hiking, rowing, swimming, reading, eating and laughing (mostly at Jasper).

I’d like to tell you more about this magical little place in a next post and show you some of my photos, but first, I thought I’d share some observations from the road. Observations that somehow stirred new hope and eased the tension that has been building in my belly from an overdose of news and opinions, fear-mongering and negative talk on social media.

One, people are hard at work all around us

On Wednesday morning, we set out at about 8am and soon found ourselves amid ongoing, large-scale roadworks en route to Malmesbury. Fortunately, they didn’t cause too much delay, but we were going slowly enough for me to really take in and marvel at the sheer industriousness unfolding all around me.

Trucks, tractors and an array of heavy-duty vehicles were bustling about, uploading and offloading, compressing and digging. Each task was carefully coordinated by a team of workers in protective helmets and reflective safety vests. Those who weren’t coordinating vehicles, were either busily waving flags, or peering and pointing at dog-eared pieces of paper (probably some building plans) or collecting discarded poles and scraps along the way.

Everyone seemed so immersed in their work. No one stood around aimlessly. No one lazed about. Sure, roadworks are a pain in the butt at the best of times, but seeing them happen in realtime early on a Wednesday morning (with the great luxury of not having anywhere to be urgently), I gained a new appreciation for the jobs they create and the problem-solving skills they must spark in the process!

Two, not everyone has lost their sense of wonder

We drove into Clanwilliam a couple of hours later and found it absolutely brimming with tourists of varying ages and cultures from all over the country, in fact, the world. They were converging here to enjoy the wildflowers that blanket the Cederberg at this time of year.

The town was absolutely spotless – not a single paper fluttering, not a shabby shopfront in sight. The locals have also clearly learned to cash in on this annual influx. Across the street from the beautiful old church that houses the flower show, a make-shift market has popped up where visitors can fill their bellies with coffee, pancakes and extensive braai meals at ridiculously good prices. The tables are full and a festive atmosphere fills the air, as strangers share floral tales and show each other their cell phone snapshots.

Three, in Clanwilliam there’s an old man trimming sidewalks with a gold medal around his neck

On our way back from Enjo this morning, we drove through Clanwilliam again and found the town even more revved up than it had been just two days before. It’s weekend after all and visitors were streaming in!

Guillaume, Jasper and I strolled down the street to buy some coffee and – while passing the doctors’ waiting room – an elderly gentleman in blue overalls caught my eye. He was hard at work trimming shrubs on the sidewalk and around his neck a large golden medal glistened.

We walked on, but my curiosity got the better of me, so I turned back to ask him about it.

I think I took him by surprise, because when I first addressed him (“Hello oom”) he eyed me suspiciously. However, when I pointed at his pendant and asked what it was for, his face broke into a huge grin and he told me how he had won the 400m race at the Golden Games in Porterville the previous day. He gestured to the embroidery on his t-shirt, where the one side read: ‘Golden Games 2018’ and on the other, the Western Cape Government logo stood out clearly.

After congratulating him on his achievement, I headed back to the car biting back tears (because come on! How amazing was this regal man?!) and googled it. Turns out, it is an initiative by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport to encourage senior citizens from communities around the province to remain physically active and participate in competitive events.

Judging by the sheer pride with which this man wore his medal to work, it seems to do a world of good for confidence and morale.

Four, in the Biedouw Valley lives a little boy with bright eyes and rosy cheeks

On our first afternoon at Enjo Nature Farm, Guillaume and I were sitting outside our little house enjoying a cup of coffee (or maybe it was a beer) when a little boy suddenly appeared, marching along confidently in his father’s footsteps (who seems to be a general maintenance man on the farm and had just passed us moments before).

The boy was wearing a wide-brimmed hat, which had been turned up above his ears, a tracksuit and tiny tekkies. As he got closer, I said hello and complimented him on his hat. He stopped at the horse paddock close-by and pretended to watch the animals intently. But I could see him studying us out of the corner of his eye.

Finally, he also succumbed to his own curiosity and came over. I think it was Jasper who first attracted his attention, but soon he was chatting away – telling us how he helps herd the sheep and even works with the horses (just how much of this was true and how much was born out of a vivid imagination, I do not know!).

I asked his name and age (questions most kids love) and was so surprised to discover he was only four years old. His Afrikaans vocabulary was more advanced than that of most adults I know and his knowledge about the farm and all its four-legged inhabitants was impressive.

He showed us some breakdancing moves, rolling around in the dust joyfully and said if we could sing ‘Tannie Koekie’ for him, he’d do a ‘rieldans’. Alas, we didn’t know the lyrics or the tune, so missed out on the show. Next, he was building a tee in the sand and pretending to kick a rugby ball. When we cheered, he said, thank you, but he hadn’t actually managed to kick it over because he forgot to look at the poles first.

So, he went again, making a show of focusing on the make-believe goal posts before booting the non-existent ball over.

Finally, it was time for him to go. His mother had been calling him home for a good while, but he had simply ignored her. (Luckily she had seen him sidle up to us, so knew he wasn’t lost.) There must have been some threat in the final call that only our little friend could detect – the way all kids know when their parents are nearing the end of their tether – and he sped off, leaving a cloud of exuberant dust in his wake.

Apart from being so clever, confident and curious, he was the picture of good health with bright eyes and rosy cheeks. Signs that he was living a wholesome life in the outdoors, under the eagle eyes of parents who cared deeply about his health, education and happiness.

Our encounter had us smiling and giggling for hours afterward and we both agreed that we hoped he’d never lose the magic with which he’d clearly been blessed to the world as he grew up.

So, what am I trying to say?

Basically, we live in an amazing country, full of people who are willing to work hard, participate passionately and raise children who will look life straight in the eyes, able take on any challenge. Let’s never forget. Don’t let all the gloom get you down. And do not forget to look for the good before you go preaching the bad. It’s there, waiting to be seen.

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